We always knew that we cannot rely on most of our online friends. Those who help us out when we really need them are few. Now, a detailed study just proves it.

A recent report published by The Royal Society of Open Science proves that we tend to keep the group of our “real” friends very small, whether it is the internet or in real life. This means that even though we may have more than 400 friends on Facebook, we may have only 14 close friends and rely on only four of them.

The study was undertaken by Professor Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University. He told The Independent that there is a cognitive constraint on the size of social networks that even the communication advantages of online media are unable to overcome. “In practical terms, it may reflect the fact that real (as opposed to casual) relationships require at least occasional face-to-face interaction to maintain them,” he added.

The objective of this study was to find out the connection between the number of friends people have in general whether online or in real life. The professor wanted to know whether people have lots of Facebook friends and real friends. The study, according to The Independent, revealed that there is little correlation between having friends on social networks and actually being able to depend on them. The numbers are mostly similar to how friendships work in real life but the huge number of supposed friends on a friend list means that people can be tricked into thinking that they might have more close friends.

He explained the findings in an email to The Huffington Post. “Creating friendships is very expensive in terms of time: to keep a friendship you have to invest a lot of time in the person, otherwise the friendship will inexorably decline in quality.”

CBC reports that the recent work was a survey that consisted of two large, separate groups of adults across the UK. The first group had 2,000 men and women between ages 18 and 65 who “made regular use of social media,” while the second included 1,375 “professional adults who worked full time” at weekday jobs, and were not necessarily social media users.